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1 Bion published ‘Group relations: A re-view’ on three occasions, 1952, 1955 and 1961, making changes in 1955, which reflect his psychoanalytic work. For analysis of these changes, see Sanfuentes, 2003.
2For the development of Bion’s ideas on groups and their application in a variety of organizational and educational contexts, see for example, Human Relations, special issue on integrating psychodynamic and organizational theory, 1999, 52(6); Armstrong, 2005; Colman & Geller, 1985; Cytrynbaum & Noumair, 2004; Fraher, 2004; Gould et al., 2001, 2004; Hopper, 2003; Lawrence, 1979; Lipgar & Pines, 2003a, 2003b; Palmer, 2000, 2002; Pines, 1985; Trist & Murray, 1990. For a full bibliography of Bion’s work and secondary literature, see Karnac, 2008.
3 We also follow Bion’s use of ‘basic assumption’ and ‘work group’ without hyphens when used as nouns, and with hyphens when used as adjectival phrases – ‘basic-assumption mentality’, ‘work-group mentality’ – despite discrepancies in the literature on Bion, and even occasionally in his own work: ‘a part of basic assumption mentality’ (Bion, 1961: 159).
4 This imbalance is reflected in the proliferation of work on the basic assumptions. For example, two recent volumes, Building on Bion (Lipgar & Pines, 2003a, 2003b), include 90 references to basic assumptions but only 14 to the work group. The three Group Relations Readers (Colman & Bexton, 1975; Colman & Geller, 1985; Cytrynbaum & Noumair, 2004) have between them three times more references to basic assumptions than to the work group; and Pines (1985) has 42 references to basic assumptions but none at all to the work group. Similarly, in the recent Dictionary of the Work of W.R. Bion (López-Corvo, 2003), the entry for ‘Basic assumption’ is twice as long as that for ‘Work group’, and there are separate entries for each of Bion’s three assumptions, as well as a further entry for ‘Oscillations of Dependent basic assumptions’. More striking than the sheer weight of references, however, is the fact that the basic assumptions have been extended in a way that simply has not occurred with the work group. Bion himself describes three basic assumptions, pairing (baP), dependence (baD) and fight-flight (baF), while leaving work-group mentality (W) undifferentiated, as an apparently unified state. A fourth assumption has been identified, differently described as basic-assumption Oneness (baO) by Turquet (1974), and as basic-assumption Incohesion: Aggregation/ Massification (baIA/M) by Hopper (2003); and a fifth by Lawrence et al. (1996) – basic-assumption Me-ness (baM).
5 In the literature, there is some variation in the use of abbreviations; here we follow Bion (1961: 105): baP, baD, baF and W.
6 The description early in Experiences in Groups of seven qualities making up the ‘good group spirit’ (Bion, 1961: 25) might be taken as a preliminary sketch of the characteristics of work-group mentality.
7 For the importance of the idea of learning by experience in Bion’s work, see Bion, 1962, 1967. See also Levine, 2002.
8 This group state is reminiscent of ‘the phenomenon of not learning’ in individual analysis, described by Riesenberg-Malcolm; an ‘as-if’ response, which she suggests is unconsciously intended ‘precisely to avoid any emotional learning.’ (Riesenberg-Malcolm, 1999: 125-6.)
9 It may not be surprising that it was in the context of work with leaders that we first had these thoughts. Bion asserted that: ‘All three basic assumptions contain the idea of a leader.’ (Bion, 1961: 160.)